Posts Tagged itching

Itching Image: Jam Session

Jam Session © Knut Skjærven

Jam Session © Knut Skjærven

We call it Jam Session. It is yet another way to make an Itching Image. I am not saying that this is, but I am sure you get the big idea.

Here is how you do it: You gather half a dozen musicians, give them each an instrument and just ask them to play along. If they feel like it.

You keep an open eye on things. An open ear.

You get something that at first sounds like a mess, but after a while you sense that it all fits. If you are lucky you get to play along.

You should only use good musicians.

Good luck with your own Jam Sessions.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved. Text and photo.

Copenhagen, May 19, 2013.

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Bringing Things Together

The Silent Reader © Knut Skjærven

The Silent Reader © Knut Skjærven

I am going to bring things together.

I will cluster two different sites: Street Photographer’s Toolbox (The Toolbox) and The Europeans. That way I don’t have to do things twice. Nor do you.

The first site holds a lot a text. The second site holds only photographs. More than anything they should be considered as chapters in the same book. That is what they are.

One of the the themes in The Toolbox is how to use gestalt factors in making what we have called Itching Images.

Itching Images are photographs that in one way or another stands apart from mere street documentation. They are the proper street photographs as we define it in this context. When you look on photographs from old masters you will see Itching Images all over. Being itchy is one of the hallmarks of street photography.

Time has now come to see how this works in practise. How are gestalt factors used in real photography? I am going to suggest how the gestalt factors are used in a number of images. Being well aware that the images used here for illustrative purposes bear no comparison with masterworks of the past.

Here are a few things you need to know:

1. Street photography, or photography in general, is no strict science so what are suggested here are suggestions only.

2. Statements made about a photograph are never right or wrong. They could, however, be more or less reasonable and well argued.

3. Many more things could, and should, be suggested about the same photograph. Here we deal with one, or few, dimensions only.

4. Not all photographs in The Europeans are categorised in gestalt terms. Nor should they be.

5. More photos will be tagged with along the way.

6. This cluster is particularly made for those attending The Workshop(s), who are presently working on a task along these lines.

Here is what you could do:

Selected photographs in The Europeans have been tagged with 1 or few of 7 gestalt factors. You have to open The Europeans, find the CATEGORIES in the blogroll at the left side and open the drop down menu to see how it is structured.

CATEGORIES contains two sets of information: a) the location where the shot is taken, and as of now b) the gestalt factor that it suggested to support it. Each photo has been marked with up to 3 factors. When you follow a particular tag it might look like this.

Please remember: Moving from lines and dots in the original gestalt research, which by the way is about 100 years old, is definitely a jump. So flexibility and interpretation are needed. Very much so. It is all a question of executing common sense and good reason.

Here is an example: The photograph above has been marhed with two tags. Besides its location tags, that is.

The tags are The Factor of Similarity  referring to the fact that there are 3 people in the shot. One real person and two others in the pictures on the wall. Here clustered in one photograph.

The other tag is The Factor of Common Fate, indicating that literally the three people have a certain fate in common. That common fate could be described as aloneness, or being in a solitary situation. Other words could be used for it, I am sure.

Could other gestalt factors have been tagged as well? Yes they could. But these two seem to be the most obvious.

If you want to see other pictures tagged with the same, or other categories, just go ahead and press the tags. You find tags beneath each photo in The Europeans. So far only a few are tagged with gestalt factors. More will come, but all photos will not be tagged this way.

May I suggest the following? Start tagging you own best images. If nothing else then only in your head. Start looking at the works of the masters of street photography. See how they made Itching Images by using gestalt factors instinctively. Not all of the time, but definitely some of the time.

Good luck with it.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved. Text and photo.

Copenhagen April 30, 2013.


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Itching Image: Contrapositions

Body Talks © Knut Skjærven

Body Talks © Knut Skjærven

You take pieces of the same material. Here, human beings.

You cut them up in smaller pieces. Some you assemble again, others not.

Make sure there is proper distance between clusters so as to be able to perceive things in isolation.

In this photo there are three such clusters: a) unassembled body pieces on top; b) two assembled body pieces below. That makes three.

Let them stand apart distributed in space: One man, one woman; one old, one new; one in stone, the others in flesh; one ancient, others more modern; one reader, one listener; one open, the other one closed; cross legs, open legs. Goes agains everything you think you ever knew about classical composition, but it seems to work anyway.

I call it contra positions. Or contrapositions, because that is what it is. Things go against each other and that is why they work.

It was always so.

Have good day.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved. Text and photo.

Copenhagen February 21, 2013.

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Itching Image: Actor’s Studio

Acrtor's Studio © Knut Skjærven

Acrtor’s Studio © Knut Skjærven

I call it Actor’s Studio. Yes, I know what the real Actor’s Studio is or was. Maybe the inspiration came from there.

It is one of my favourites for doing Itching Images because you need such an incredible amount of luck to get a way with it.

It is not only the placement of the people and the directions they move in or even look in. It is also the activities in which each individual engage. And the visual dialog that goes on in each group.

It is like being in a studio and leaving it to the actors to arrange themselves. Of course, that is not the case in street photography. You should not arrange anything apart from maybe yourself.

When I look at this image, and it does not matter who shot it, because the very moment it is in the box it belongs only to itself, and no one can no longer claim it, I am reminded of these words by John Szarkowski.

He said: The first thing a photographer learned was that photography dealt with the actual; he had not only to accept this fact, but to treasure it: unless he did, photography would defeat him.

He learned that the world itself is an artist of incomparable inventiveness, and to recognize its best works and moments, to anticipate them, to clarify them and make them permanent, requires intelligence both acute and supply.

John Szarkowski: The Photographers Eye, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 2009.

My favourites in this group of real time actors playing out their roles at the steps of the Dome in Berlin, who are they? In fact I have two sets: the homesick Norwegian in the front, and the two mobile shooters at the top of the stairs. In the middle.

It is all in their language. The world itself is an artist of incomparable inventiveness.

Good luck with it. Your own actors.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved. Text and photo.

Copenhagen February 19, 2013.

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Itching Image: Lost Expectation

Love Couple © Knut Skjærven

Love Couple © Knut Skjærven

One  way to create an Itching Image is to substitute one object for another. Or one subject for an object. A human being for a thing.

In this picture you substitute a man with a musical instrument, but you keep them standing in love position (whatever that might be). I am sure you know what I mean.

He only has one eye and is rather clumsily built. His hands pocketed as if he doesn’t really care.

It is a case of lost expectations. That is what we will call it. You expect something, but you get something else.

I am not sure that this picture works, actually. You tell me. It is sometimes difficult to see if pictures, that you have taken yourself, include the suggestions that you think they do. When you work on own material images get so familiar that they loose meaning and you must really strain yourself to grasp what a more spontaneous reading could be. If that is possible at all. So, you tell me.

Not that it is very important if this image works or not. I am sure that I will be able to make the point anyway. The point is substitution.

That’s all for lost expectation. Have a good day.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved. Text and photo.
Copenhagen February 15, 2013.

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Itching Images: Little Boxes

Just In Time © Knut Skjærven.

Just In Time © Knut Skjærven.

It is funny. You keep looking at images and wonder if they work and why they work.  For me this image works.

I have had this from June 2012 and thought it was ok since there was so many things in it. But the other day, I re-edited it slightly and started looking at it once more.

It took me two days to find out why it worked (for me). It was made up of little boxes. That is the trick, that is why I shot it and that is what I forgot.

The are boxes all over: Positive boxed and negative boxes. Spaces and empty spaces are boxes. Small boxes, big boxes, boxes within boxes, watch boxes, waist boxes, poster boxes, boxes within poster boxes, sign boxes, faces in boxes. And more boxes.

I started to draw them all up with a colour in PS to show myself that so it was, but it was too cumbersome so I let it be.

So what did I learn from this little exercise?

Three things: 1) It sometimes pays to spend a little extra time on your own images; 2) It is good to set words to things so you can remember what they are all about; 3) BUT MOST OF ALL it is interesting to discover that your private toolbox is silently working for you when your are out searching for decisive moments (of some sorts) and you are not even aware that it does. That is maybe the ultimate benefit travelling with a tool box.

It is not like; Oh, look at those nice little boxes there I must take a photo. It is much more like you take a picture and later you recognise the reasons why. If you need a reason why, that it. Most of the time you don’t, but in describing itching images you do.

Is it the boxes that make this photo then? You might say they are the glue that holds the photo together. But it is the human elements, their shapes and forms and faces and no faces, that break the rhythm of the little boxes and add to the gimmick.

By the way, boxes aren’t just boxes. Little boxes can take any shape and form you can think of. As long as they are there in significance you might say that you have boxed it. Good luck with it.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved. Text and photo.
Copenhagen February 2, 2013.

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Itching Image: Wandering Vision

Wandering Vision. © Knut Skjærven.

Wandering Vision. © Knut Skjærven.

Here is another way to create an itching image. I call it Wandering Vision because it makes your vision wander. Look at the image above.

There is no possible way that you can get all the details of this in the same visual grasp. You can get an overview, but there are far too many details for you to handle them all in one go. You need to wander. You need to spend a little time on each.

In a way, this photo is build up of four mini photos held together by a common setting. A common context.

And a set of invisible lines that connects them and hold pieces together.

There is a guy left shooting with his SLR, flash and monopod. There is another guy behind him facing in the same direction. Passing by. On the right hand side you have a lady photographer with her compact. Behind her what could be a younger woman searching her handbag. The two women facing in the same direction too. Away from the men.

Notice the vertical line in between the two painting on the wall.  It could have split the image in two halves, but it does not really get away with that split, does it. The reason for that is that there are elements at work here that hold the scene together. In spite of the division down the middle.

Arguments are something like this: The two younger people in the background, one male the other female, are held together by their different sex and inherent attraction to each other. And by their similarity in age and posture. They are the young couple.

Something similar could be said about the persons in the foreground. Left and right. They are even connected by a similar type of activity. They are both photographers. A bit older than the other two but even that makes them hold together as a team. They belong. From each side of the frame they connect.

Images like these are challenging. They can easily fall apart. That does not seem to happen in this shot.

I can hear voices: This is all very well when analysing a photo. It is, however, not possible to shoot like this when you are out in the field even doing your very best. There is simply too much that needs to be remembers and that have to fall into place. It is not possible.

Answer: Well, now that you know how things can work you are open for them to happen to you too. Luck will do the rest. Just it did for me in this shot.

And true, it is only when you start setting words to it that you see what is in there.

From this brief post, you should remember only the caption Wandering Visions and the fact that things can be kept together even if they most likely should fall apart. Here they hold together by similarity.

Good luck with trying out wandering visions.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved: Text and picture.

January 14, 2013.

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What Will Happen Next?

Workmen’s Wisdom.© Knut Skjærven.

You may wonder what will happen next in the coach program. Here is the general idea.

Vision stated, mentor (s) found, and favourite images selected we all should have a pretty good idea of the style and content of the work in question. It was never the idea that the mentor’s work should in any way be copied. It serves only as a broad frame of reference. Let’s call this Mentor’s Universe (tag).

The main idea of Street Photographer’s Toolbox is to point to and practice useful tools for itching street photographs. Itching means striking. Itching images have that extra that makes them worth while looking at and even study. They should contain qualities that arrests you for one reason or other. Read more about Itching Images.

There are no itching elements in pure and plain street documentation. One has to distinguish between mere picturetaking and photography.  Not all that comes out of a camera is photography.

How this striking comes about is ultimately in the hands of the individual photographer. What you will experience in the coach programs is drilling sessions bases on practical research and experience had from well know photographers, as in the case of Elisabeth Maurice, Willy Ronies and later maybe Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Does this sound complicated? It is not. What you should expect to see during the drill process are images within a Mentors Universe and general inspiration, but enhancing that universe by utilizing the content of the toolbox.

Mentors Universe is the bass guitar playing, while you the photographer are the vocalist in the ensemble. With a voice of your own.

Should you/we during such a process expect to see images that could be even more striking than, or on the level of, those being shot by a mentor?  I think so.

If is worth remembering that famous photographers do not rely on single images for their reputation. They get their fame from lifelong investment and passion for street photography. And talent.

What is going to happen next is that drilling will begin.

Good luck with it.

NB! All are welcome to take part in this drilling. You don’t even have to tell anybody that you do.

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Itching Image: Juxtaposition

Footwork. © Knut Skjærven.

Let us  call this itching technique itching by juxtaposition.

Juxtaposition means “the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect: the juxtaposition of these two images”.

Juxtaposition then does not only mean that the two or more elements involved need to be different, they even need to be contrasting and placed together. 

To get the itching effect there must be a number of similarities between the two or more elements, as well. In Footwork above, the elements we talk about are the two women. One standing, one sitting. They must at the same time be held together by being of the same type (women), and separated  by belonging of a recognizable subtype based on styles, ages, bodily positions, footware, dresswise, etcetera.

If one of them were substituted for a man, just to take an example, the elements would surely still be different , but it would no longer be the type of juxtaposition that we speak of here. The elements of similarity needed would lack.

In street photography you can work with juxtapositions. The challenge is that you need to do it unstaged and unposed. You are not supposed to set thing up by bringing in models or extras.  You have to stick to unfolding reality is you observe it on location. Within one and the same shot you can bring together elements that in unfolding reality were never intended to be seen, nor framed, together. By doing just that you force or provoke a situation that in the best of cases might be intriguing or inching. It is such an itching that makes the picture stand out.

Juxtapositions can have many layers. In Footwork, some of the juxtaposed notions might be described like this:

older woman – younger woman//sitting woman – standing woman//light dress – dark dress//longer dress – shorter dress//high heeled shoes – low heeled shoes//mature dress style – less mature dress style// dark hair – blond hair

These things only work because what holds the juxtaposition together is that both people are women, lightly dressed, crossed legs, black shoes, bare legs, and many other things. Fell free to add your own observations.

Thanks for reading. Good luck with it.


© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved. (Text and image.)

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Itching Image: Decisive Moments / Complex

Beach Party. © Knut Skjærven.

This is definitely a more complex version of a Decisive Moment.

Complex is not the same are complicated because there is nothing complicated in this image. But it is, in my view, complex both visually and related to content. The share number of themes working together have increased when comparing this image to the other example of a Decisive Moment: Come Fly With Me.

The viewer will automatically ask for these many themes to work together for is to build a coherent image in his/her mind. I my view they do, but you don’t have to agree in this.

Let me point to the possible sub themes in the image: the sunbathers and black dog looking out towards the canal; the man in the foreground also turning the back on the sunbathers; the sunbathers themselves; the dog and the man both turning their backs on the sunbathers; and, of course, the curious guy in the boat close to the frame at the left hand side.

What is happening here? That is the question. Is this a random constellation of people, or are there more subtle issues at stake here? Perhaps the whole thing is an act in a play unfolding at the dock of the bay. Hardly.

I am not going to suggest what all of this means, because meaning in a complex moment like this is very much up to the individual to speculate about. And with that I will leave it.

If possible: Enjoy.


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